The first time I stepped on to the field to officiate in a cricket match, it took me close to an over to realise that I was indeed fulfilling my dream. There was no better way to stay associated with the game than by being right where the action is. The leap to international umpiring definitely was an icing on the cake.
Honestly speaking, umpiring isn’t the most well-paid job in the world, but then becoming an umpire was more a case of following my love and passion for the game than to rake in the moolah. There are numerous other ways to earn quick money and things get easier if you want to do it illegally. So why throw dirt on one of the most respected positions in cricket? The world might get startled by revelations of umpires being approached by bookies and that they going accept such offers, but it is an old trend. Even during my tenure as an international umpire, I was time and again approached by bookies to divulge information and tweak results of matches.
I was asked to help bookies in a variety of things. Starting from providing toss and pitch information, dismissing certain batsmen to changing the ultimate outcome of the match by giving crucial decisions in favour of the team supported by bookies.
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But my conscience never let me give these offers a second thought.
But what intrigued me was the clout and sources of these bookies.
How did they time and again manage to breach the security cordon and conveniently reach our hotel rooms? I discussed these matters with my co-umpires and they were similarly awe-struck at these people’s ability to find loopholes in the system.
Today as I read and see reports about these six umpires, all I want to know is how players will trust umpiring decisions in the future? Will even genuine mistakes be questioned?
How will one distinguish between human error and foul play? If the law enforcers are caught napping, it just doesn’t set the right example.
As a member of the umpiring community I feel extremely hurt by the these umpires’ conduct and their willingness to sell their profession.
But thankfully, the BCCI has been doing a great job and all umpires are regularly told about the norms and their conduct on and off the field.
(The writer has officiated in five ODIs from 1999- 2002)